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From “The New York Times,” I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”
Today, in a major new poll, “The Times” tries to understand how Americans really feel about the war in Gaza, President Biden’s role in the conflict, and perhaps most revealingly, about the state of Israel itself.
My colleague, Jonathan Weisman, explains.
It’s Friday, December 22.
Jonathan, the war between Israel and Hamas has become — and I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know — a source of profound division in the United States. You can see that from the protests on college campuses and in big cities, from the strong emotions that are pouring forth on social media, and from the political conversation in Washington. And yet, it’s been very hard to actually measure any of it. But “The Times” has now tried to do just that.
That’s right. We went out to try to ascertain where Americans, as a whole, are. And we talked to registered voters, and we asked them two sets of questions — one about how President Biden is handling this conflict, and the other about Israel itself and Israel’s handling of its war against Hamas in Gaza.
OK, well, let’s start with what the poll found when it comes to the first of those two areas of questions — how Americans see President Biden’s handling of the war.
I mean, registered voters clearly disapprove of the way President Biden has been handling this conflict. 57 percent say they disapprove, and only 33 percent said they approved of the way the President has been handling the war in Gaza.
So what exactly does this poll reveal about what’s behind those high disapproval numbers? On the one hand, those numbers are striking, because Israel is historically such a close ally of the US, and Biden has been so unwaveringly supportive of it. On the other hand, it’s perhaps not that surprising at all, because of how much anger Israel’s retaliation for October 7 — the extremely high death toll in Gaza — has inspired among Americans.
Well, the signals being sent to President Biden are decidedly mixed. You have 44 percent saying, end the war now, regardless of whether the hostages have been released or not, but nearly the same number, 39 percent, saying, no, they want Israel to keep pressing their war on Hamas until either all of the hostages are out or Hamas has been destroyed. So that shows a real split in where Americans actually are.
Well, how do you make sense of that? Because those do seem like confusing signals — a majority disapproving of the President’s handling, but then a pretty even split between what they want him to actually do that signals how he might get out of their disapproval.
It’s tricky, because that 57 percent that disapprove of the way Biden is handling it is divided itself. Some of those people say Biden has been too pro-Israel, and some other people think that Biden is too supportive of the Palestinians, and maybe not being tough enough on Hamas.
OK, so how does this broad disapproval and this more or less even split among voters over what they want Biden to do — how does it break down by party?
Well, let’s look at Republicans. 93 percent of Republicans disapprove broadly of the way President Biden is doing his job. But 78 percent disapprove of the way Biden is handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So as you see, there is a dropoff.
Right. More approve of his actions toward Israel than approve of him in general. Why is that?
Well, you know, among Republicans, Israel is just a more popular political entity. So if Joe Biden is broadly perceived as being pro-Israel, a certain number of Republicans will give him credit for that.
Right. OK. So what about Democrats and their views of how he’s handling the war?
It’s kind of the converse. I mean, the fact is, Biden has pretty much consolidated support among Democrats. 8 out of 10 Democrats support the way President Biden is handling his job. But on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just over 1/2 approve of the way he’s handling it.
That’s a very big gap.
So whereas Biden’s approach to the war is polling slightly better with Republicans than he’s polling with them overall, with Democrats, he’s polling worse on his approach to the war than he’s polling with Democrats overall, which is really fascinating. Basically, he has disillusioned his own party with the way he has handled the conflict.
That’s right. And that’s, in part, a reflection of the generation gap within the Democratic party. Democrats skew young, and young people really, really feel badly about the way this war is being handled and about the conduct that Israel is engaging in, in Gaza.
Say more about that. It feels very important to understanding this poll.
Remember, in July, when “The Times” last polled voters on how they’re feeling, these young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 sided with Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 10 percentage points. Now, this young demographic is siding with Trump by 6 percentage points. That’s a huge flip.
OK, Jonathan. Does the poll allow you to truly attribute that phenomenon of young voters essentially starting to flee Biden and, to some extent, flipping over to Trump, which is not entirely intuitive to the war? Because we know from past polling that Biden was losing support with young people, so that was already kind of a trajectory. So how should we think about that?
It’s very difficult to tease out all of the factors. And when you look at the poll overall, if you ask people what their dominant concerns are, it’s still the economics. And their impression of the economy is certainly coloring their views of President Biden.
The economic picture is actually improving. But between July and now, we’ve had the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israelis and the ensuing war. So you have these two factors playing at the same time. And it seems to me that the war in Gaza is just a millstone around Biden’s neck, preventing a comeback among those younger voters.
Right. Something very big changed since July, and it wasn’t, as you’re saying, really the economy. It was the war in Gaza that President Biden has articulated pretty much unwavering moral support for. But what about older voters?
I’m going to deduce, because you haven’t said that older voters, like younger voters, are turning on Biden over this war, that they’re not. And that’s a pretty important group of voters for Biden.
Traditionally, 65 and up is the voting bloc that votes most, that is consistently at the polls. And for those people, 52 percent approve of the way Biden is handling the conflict, against 40 who disapprove. Those aren’t huge numbers, but if you look at all the age brackets, that’s pretty remarkable, considering 30 percent approve among Gen X voters, 26 percent approve among 30 - to 44-year-olds, Millennials, and only 20 percent approve of Biden’s handling of the conflict among 18 - to 29-year-olds — 20 percent.
So if you’re Joe Biden and you’re thinking, well, what am I supposed to do, you could look at that 52 percent and say, well, those guys vote. Should I change course and alienate 65-year-olds and up who like what I’m doing? It’s a tough decision for the President.
Right. Because there’s a bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If the President were to be highly responsive to young voters, who have soured on his handling of the war, he risks alienating older voters, who haven’t. So there’s no blindingly obvious course of action for President Biden in terms of public opinion and turning it around. And so perhaps Biden’s most logical answer is to do what it seems he has been doing since October 7, which is to kind of follow his instinct, even if that ends up alienating some young voters.
There’s no real evidence at all that President Biden is shaping his policy according to politics or the will of the people. And given the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” message from this poll for President Biden, you know, we know that this war is going to wind down, for no other reason than the United States wants it to wind down. So as a long-term political conundrum, he can wait it out.
The real message that we learned from this poll has more to do with how Americans view Israel and their country’s relationship with it, and what that means for the Jewish state in the long run.
We’ll be right back.
OK, Jonathan, what exactly does this poll tell us about how Americans view Israel and America’s relationship to Israel? You mentioned before the break that the real meaning of this poll is not how Americans think of Biden in this moment but how they think of Israel. So describe what the poll actually found.
Now, if you look overall, Americans do have positive feelings about Israel. They are more sympathetic to the Israelis than the Palestinians, and in general, they want America to side with Israel, to supply Israel with arms and aid. But when you look at young voters, the change is dramatic.
Very few of them believe Israel is serious about peace with the Palestinians. Nearly half say Israel is intentionally killing civilians. That is a bad sign. I mean, that’s a bad thing to do.
And nearly 3/4 say Israel is not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties. A majority of those young voters actually oppose additional economic, military aid. That portends a huge shift in America’s relationship with Israel.
Right. And so what you’re left with is a very clear understanding that this younger group of Americans — in a sense, America’s future — is very skeptical of Israel. And maybe “skeptical” isn’t even the right word for it, not strong-enough word for it, based on what you just said. They disapprove of its conduct.
Yes. And what’s remarkable is that there is a linear progression of this ill will coming as you go down from the older generations to the youngest generations.
Well, just explain that — the concept of a linear progression here.
So if you’re from the silent generation, like Joe Biden — you’re over 70, 80 years old — that means you were alive during the Holocaust and the founding of Israel. You maybe know people who lived through those defining moments. And you’re more likely to have a strong feeling about the need for Israel and the US to support it.
Remember, the United States was the first nation in the world to recognize Israel as a sovereign country in 1948. The Baby Boom generation might not have been old enough to remember the establishment of the Israeli state, but they do remember 1967 and the Six-Day War in which Israel fended off attacks from all of its Arab neighbors and looked heroic.
They remember the 1973 War, the Yom Kippur War, when a sneak attack nearly destroyed Israel. And at that time, America’s support for Israel is unquestioned and copious. That’s when you started seeing, year after year, Congress, without question, allocating more aid to Israel than any country in the world.
Generation X may not have seen those wars, but they saw a peace process. They saw Israeli governments vacillate between liberal and conservative, and Israelis seemed serious about reaching some kind of peace accord with their Arab neighbors and with the Palestinians that would lead to two nations, side by side, reaching some kind of settlement.
And what does that do for the view of Generation X toward Israel?
So Generation X might not have as monolithic support as much older generations. But Generation X members still tend to favor Israelis over Palestinians. About 57 percent in our poll said they are more sympathetic to the Israelis than the Palestinians in the current conflict.
So for this generation, you remember Bill Clinton shuttling between the United States from Washington to Tel Aviv. You remember the Oslo Accords. And for an American president, peace between Israel and Palestine is kind of the brass ring, the thing that you want the most.
Right. OK. So what’s next?
Then, we move on to Millennials. Millennials remember, of course, 9/11 and a sense that the Middle East is a divisive place, a place where Americans are fighting. There is a division in Americans about whether or not our troops, our money, and resources should even be dumping into this area.
And Millennials don’t remember a peace process. What they remember is the rise of the Right in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu becoming a fixture of Israeli politics and bluntly declaring that he doesn’t want a two-state solution, he doesn’t want peace with the Palestinians. Their sense — Millennials’ sense — is that he wants to crush them.
Right. And so here, we see an important turning point in that linear progression you described just a couple of moments ago. Millennial Americans have a profoundly different experience of Israel with their own eyes than the silent generation who watched Israel be born or the Baby Boomer generation that watched this little country that could and somehow overcome its bigger Arab rivals’ armies. This feels like a very important moment.
It is. And we see it in the numbers. If you look at our poll, the ages between 30 and 44 — only 36 percent say that they are more sympathetic toward Israel than the Palestinians in the current conflict. 36 percent — that is a linear decline from the older generations.
And that leads us to the current generation, the 18 - to 29-year-olds. With the 18 - to 29-year-olds, only 27 percent said they sympathize with Israelis. 46 percent said they sympathize with the Palestinians. This is the first generation in which that split is so decisive in the Palestinians’ favor.
They don’t remember peace processes. They only remember an Israel that is powerful, that is not interested in peace with the Palestinians. They see a bullying superpower in the Middle East, and they don’t like it.
So what a meaningful number of this generation, Generation Z — how they see Israel is less and less as a victim as previous generations did, and instead increasingly see Israel as a victimizer.
That’s right. And they look at what’s happening in Washington with their government, and they see US military aid to Israel as increasingly important and increasingly identifiable. For instance, if you look at Iron Dome, this missile defense system in Israel, it’s built and engineered with help from the United States. The missiles that shoot down missiles being fired at Israel, especially from Hamas — parts of those missiles are made in America.
There is a sense that America is deeply entrenched in Israel, and Israel is not a nation that these youngest voters sympathize with. And now, you’re starting to see mainstream Democrats — not from the fringe Left, but the center of the party — at least talking about attaching conditions to military aid to Israel.
Such conditions are routine with other countries. I mean, we’ve been attaching conditions to aid to Pakistan for decades. But with Israel, that support has always been unconditional. This is a very big change for US-Israel relations.
And just to bring it back to the poll, Jonathan — each generation’s experience seems to be projected onto this moment, and that’s how you get this linear progression, decline, of American support for Israel.
That’s right. Politics are personal. And the way somebody, some voter, experiences history will impact his or her feelings about political issues. And ultimately, aid to Israel is a political issue. And I think —
— we can project forward only so much. I mean, the fact is that somebody who’s 25 years old may feel differently in the future. But the numbers are so dramatic. When you see only 27 percent of this age cohort sympathizing with Israel, you have to think that there will be residual impacts as these people grow into the power structure of the United States.
Right. And the natural conclusion of everything you have just described in this poll is that when they are running the country, they will bring a fair amount of skepticism toward Israel. And so the question becomes, is Israel prepared to live in a world where US support is meaningfully lower, where strings and conditions are attached, or even in a world where it doesn’t really have much US support? Or if it’s not willing to live in that world, will it, do we think, make it a priority to appeal to these younger Americans in order to maintain US support going forward?
I think this is a huge question for Israel. There are voices in Israel that very much want to go it alone, that say, we will do what we need to do to survive, and we don’t care what the international community says. Those people were already willing to challenge or actually thumb their nose at America.
Remember, Netanyahu, at one time, went around Barack Obama’s back and addressed Congress at the invitation of Republicans. He was willing to have ruptures in the US-Israel support system.
Right. And it’s very possible that Netanyahu was willing to do what he did to Obama because, on some level, he believed — and he has a lot of reason to believe it — that the United States would never really punish him or Israel for all that defiant and insulting act to Obama, because its commitment is so deep.
Right. And that was a long time ago. You know, if we look at generation to generation, we see how events that generation lived through really impacted that generation’s view of US-Israel relations. Well, young voters of today had already started souring on an Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and now, this generation now has its seminal event. And that seminal event, the war in Gaza, is not creating an impression to turn that erosion around.
I want to try to end this conversation by bringing all of this together — how Americans are viewing Biden’s handling of the war, the first half of our conversation, and the second half — how they are viewing Israel. The current dynamic of a US president who is as supportive of Israel as Biden is, and what Israel’s current government is doing, and how it approaches this war and the world, this right-wing government — when you put those together, it suggests that the disillusionment of young Americans is quite likely to deepen and that it will very likely accelerate what could become a deeply strained dynamic between the United States and Israel.
That’s possible, and that’s one way to look at it. But remember, before the Hamas attacks on Israel, Israel itself was deeply divided. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis were in the streets, calling for Netanyahu to step down or to change course.
And now, 76 percent of Israelis disapprove of the job Netanyahu is doing. They want him gone. So there could be a major, major shift coming out of this war in Israel itself that might, might, rejuvenate a sense of Israel as a thriving democracy that could seek some solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians after this horrible, horrible war.
And basically, you’re saying that what we’re not accounting for in this moment is the kind of profound internal change in Israel that might result from this war and from, perhaps, the removal to the Netanyahu government. It seems very possible, what you just laid out, and that successor government, with a new set of incentives and priorities, might — as you said, might — change the way that younger Americans see Israel.
Israel is a young and dynamic democracy. It certainly has its flaws. Some people might even say those flaws are so profound that it isn’t a democracy. But Israel has found its way forward when it faced existential questions.
But when this war ends, Israel understands that this kind of bloodletting on both sides, in which, according to officials on each side, about 20,000 Palestinians have lost their lives, and at least 1,200 Israelis have lost their lives, this cannot be the new norm. And for the United States, the US also has to recalibrate its approach to Israel that is perhaps more complicated than the unquestioned support that we’ve seen for decades now.
Well, Jonathan, thank you very much.
We’ll be right back.
Here’s what else you need to know today. On Thursday, a gunman killed at least 15 people in and around the Czech Republic capital of Prague in one of the worst mass killings in Europe in nearly a decade. Most of the victims were killed on the campus of Charles University in Central Prague. Police said that the shooter is now dead but offered no motive for his actions.
And Rudy Giuliani filed for bankruptcy on Thursday after a judge ordered him to begin paying nearly $150 million in damages to two former Georgia election workers for spreading lies that they had tried to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City, was found liable in August for defaming the two workers when he baselessly claimed that they tried to manipulate ballots in Fulton County.
Today’s episode was produced by Olivia Natt and Michael Simon Johnson, with help from Alex Stern. It was edited by Lexie Diao and Paige Cowett, fact-checked by Susan Lee, contains original music by Pat McCusker, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.
That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you on Tuesday, after the holiday.
As an expert and enthusiast, I don't possess personal experiences or beliefs, but I can provide you with information related to the concepts discussed in the article. The article discusses the findings of a poll conducted by The New York Times on how Americans view the war in Gaza, President Biden's handling of the conflict, and their attitudes towards Israel.
Americans' Views on President Biden's Handling of the War
According to the poll, registered voters in the United States largely disapprove of President Biden's handling of the war in Gaza. 57 percent of respondents said they disapprove, while only 33 percent said they approve. The disapproval numbers are significant considering that historically, Israel has been a close ally of the US, and Biden has been supportive of Israel.
Mixed Signals and Divided Opinions
The poll reveals mixed signals and divided opinions among Americans regarding their preferences for the war's resolution. While 44 percent of respondents said they want the war to end immediately, regardless of whether the hostages have been released, 39 percent said they want Israel to continue its war against Hamas until all hostages are released or Hamas is destroyed. These divergent opinions demonstrate a split among Americans in terms of their desired outcome.
The poll also shows a partisan divide in how Americans view President Biden's handling of the conflict. Among Republicans, 93 percent disapprove of his overall job performance, but 78 percent disapprove of his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, 80 percent of Democrats support Biden's overall job performance, but only slightly over half (slightly over 50 percent) approve of his handling of the conflict.
The poll highlights generational differences in Americans' views towards Israel. Younger Americans, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 29, show more skepticism and disapproval of Israel's conduct and its approach to peace with the Palestinians. Only 27 percent of this age group sympathize with Israel, while 46 percent sympathize with the Palestinians.
This shift in younger Americans' attitudes towards Israel may have implications for the long-term relationship between the US and Israel. It suggests that as younger generations gain influence in the political landscape, they may bring a more critical and skeptical perspective towards Israel, potentially leading to changes in US support and policies.
Overall, the poll indicates that while Americans, in general, have positive feelings towards Israel and want the US to support Israel, there is a growing skepticism among younger Americans. This skepticism stems from a perception that Israel is not serious about peace with the Palestinians and is not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties.
The changing attitudes towards Israel among younger Americans may result in a strained dynamic between the US and Israel in the future. It remains to be seen how Israel will respond to this shift and whether it will make efforts to appeal to younger Americans or adjust its approach to maintain US support.
Please note that the above information is based on the concepts discussed in the article and not on personal experiences or beliefs.